Will unvaccinated firefighters be restricted from traveling to fires?

Colorado engine 4321 Dixie Fire
Colorado DFPC SLV Engine 4321 on the Dixie Fire, California, 2021. DFPC photo.

A letter from the US Forest Service’s new Chief, Randy Moore, dated August 17, 2021 could lead a person to believe that Federal firefighters might be restricted from traveling to wildfire assignments. The initiative apparently stemmed from a July 29, 2021 White House statement:

Anyone who does not attest to being fully vaccinated will be required to wear a mask on the job no matter their geographic location, physically distance from all other employees and visitors, comply with a weekly or twice weekly screening testing requirement, and be subject to restrictions on official travel.

The Chief Moore document says all federal agencies are working to establish specific safety protocols for fully vaccinated individuals and those who are not fully vaccinated. These protocols will be consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) July 27, 2021 guidance and align with the revised model safety principles from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.

The last link above is from, Safer Federal Workforce Task Force COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Agency Model Safety Principles, Issued July 29, 2021. Here is the section on travel:

Federal employees should adhere strictly to CDC guidelines before, during, and after travel.

For Federal employees who are fully vaccinated, there are no Government-wide restrictions on travel (although agency travel policies still apply).

For Federal employees who are not fully vaccinated or who decline to provide information about their vaccination status, official domestic travel should be limited to only necessary mission-critical trips. International travel should also be avoided, if at all possible, unless it is mission critical (e.g., military deployments, COVID-19 response deployments or activities, diplomats traveling, high-level international negotiations that cannot occur remotely). Heads of agencies should issue specific guidance to account for the particulars of their agency’s mission.

So after wading through all those documents, including a post from Chief Moore that triggered this journey of discovery, it at first appears that only “mission critical” travel will be allowed unless you are an international diplomat or a member of the military.

But all this is left up in the air, for now, since the letter says, instead of using clear text, the USFS is “moving forward … to establish specific safety protocols.”

Of course if the five federal agencies that fight wildland fire simply decree that firefighting is “mission critical”, end of discussion.

Meanwhile firefighting goes on, but with reduced numbers of available firefighters.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

64 thoughts on “Will unvaccinated firefighters be restricted from traveling to fires?”

  1. That would be logical and simple. Do you really believe that the FS can be that easy?

  2. Yes. Of course. This question alone is an implied threat to let things burn. Sorry, not sorry: GET VACCINATED!

  3. Fighting forest fires within the confines of our national border IS mission critical.
    Period.
    These brave men and women who fight these wild fires should be recognized as a special class, and most certainly be given the bandwidth to do their job without intereference from those who spend their workweek hanging around the water cooler or behind a desk in an air conditioned facility.

  4. 25% of health care workers won’t get vaccinated because what they are seeing isn’t lining up with what “they” are saying as per NBC. Firefighters are trained to gather situational awareness through “the fog of war”. If 30% of firefighters aren’t permitted to travel because they feel as if the information they have acquired leads them to deny vaccination…by my calcs leaves roughly 7700 fewer firefighters right now to help protect lives and property domestically. If you want more firefighters made available to help, call your Congress men/women and tell them to legalize freedom.

  5. Enough is Enough, time to do the right thing, get vaccinated or just stay home, one rotten apple can literally spoil the whole barrel…..Crew cabs make great barrels, an unvaccinated FF makes for a great rotten apples…..Peace……

  6. Well for one it’s hard to find fighters, and some people can’t take shots there going to lose a lot of fire fighters.

  7. Yes, and one of those 25% who provides care for my 95 yo mother was traced to infecting her with covid last week. Thank God mom was vaccinated. But at that age she was still exhausted from it all week. No excuse.

  8. I keep hearing that these are brave men and women, if so then be brave again and take the shot. If not, fire them and reinstate the people who have taken the shot. It’s really that simple!!!

  9. I don’t know you guys…As a Cisgender Male, ever since I got the vaccine I have found it utterly impossible to get pregnant. Coincidence, who knows?

  10. Hey there “not the only one”
    Tell me, if you had cancer and the only way to treat it would be to use the fairly new MRNA medical technology ??
    You are aware of the science and development of the MRNA vaccines ?

    By the way…your idea of freedom doesn’t give you the right to infect me or those I carry about. It’s a public forum, so I will leave it that.

  11. Everyone realizes vaccinated people are getting Covid and spreading it right? Why not focus on diligent testing so we can truly protect people?

  12. For all you freedom fighters out there, I was doing my own research and found a great quote from a vaccine expert. If you don’t want an experimental vaccine, this treatment sounds really reasonable. Something to think about if you’re a real critical thinker-

    “A question that probably some of you are thinking of if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So, supposedly we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it. And then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re going to test that, too. Sounds interesting, right?”
    “And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that, so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me. So, we’ll see, but the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute. That’s pretty powerful.”

    Huh? Huh? (Soft friendly elbow jabs to your ribs) Sounds legit right?

  13. Everyone who demands others get the shot are clueless. For more reasons than there is space to type. Please check your egos. And those of you who dont want the shots need to adjust your lifestyles as well to not impact others. Check your egos as well. For all you folks who want to flame me I have gotten my shot but I happen to self identify as COVID and docs cant seem to fix that issue

  14. I don’t know why but this conversation, reminds me of the FS presentation about lining up the cheese. Step 1: Don’t get vaccinated. Step 2: Get fired for not following policy. Step 3: Lose health insurance. Step 4: Get COVID. Step 5: Go to the hospital. Step 6: Get a $20,000 – $100,000 medical bill. Or just avoid lining up the cheese and get a free shot at Walgreens!!! It’s easy!

  15. SR, it is totally easy. However, I think the do your own research crew is afraid of the vaccine because of the overwhelming number of fully-vaccinated people filling up the ICUs. That’s what’s happening right? Fully-vaccinated people are getting terrible COVID cases and all the unvaccinated people are getting mild colds? The doctors are frustrated because vaccinated people are taking all the beds? The doctors are angry because these bad COVID cases and deaths could have been prevented by not getting vaccinated? Or is it the opposite of that? I can’t remember.

  16. I was on crew that was just in California less than half have gotten the shot. We did a lot of structure protection. If we couldn’t go because of a vaccine requirement a lot of those houses wouldn’t of got the work they needed. It’s not easy to just replace all of us fire fighters that have the qualifications to go fight these fires. This is a free country and have right to make our own choices. If your house was in path of one of these fires and your told sorry we can’t save house due to shortage of resources due to them not having shot. I’m pretty sure you’d change your mind quick.

  17. Thank you Not Joe B! I am and have been taking steps other than vaccinating….I’m staying home helping to keep small fires small. I try not to go to social events. I grow and kill the bulk of my own food. I do my best to not go to town. I avoid the office and try to do project work in the field instead.
    Seeing the vaccinated get sick; Seeing the feds assign a payroll code to sick leave due to vaccine side effects; cynically feeling like the feds cant do anything warp speed without goofing it up; and watching the CDC continually change their message lends to my current lifestyle and decisions……however, I’m not the only one and am assuming that a no travel policy if unvaccinated will reduce the number of firefighters available to assist nationally.

  18. And everyone who demands that we drive sober on the right side of the road within the speed limit, who require MMR vaccinations in school, who require that we pay taxes: all wrong-headed too?

  19. You forgot Steps 7 & 8: #7 – infect your co-workers, family and neighbors; #8 – maybe die, or be physically impaired for the rest of your life.
    Me, I’m a vaccinated. And wear a mask into Costco and other busy places.

  20. PL5 isn’t the time to fire a few thousand agency employees. Sounds like a quick way to start losing fires. Also, it’s pretty hard to care about what random public citizens think as a GS6 anyways when we get paid what we do. Make us care, people! My daily plug to remind everyone we’re massively underpaid and leaving en masse 🙂

  21. Phil, I need a job. To get a job I have to be vaccinated. So, I got vaccinated. I don’t have the luxury to make other arguements. I don’t have insurance or an income coming in and thanks to the FS I can’t even get unemployment. So, I’m sorry, that all of you are wining about a shot, but come on at least you have a job and health insurance. Get the shot. You’re horny for about 3 hours and then you take a nap and your arm hurts for a day. Big deal. Yes, I know it’s weird that I’m on this side of the argument, because I don’t like the vaccine tied to your income, but we really don’t have a choice, so take the shot so you can keep your job.

  22. Yeah, I got the shot the second it was available to me. I got it because I like being alive. It’s not tied to my work, but it should be. I also got COVID five months after getting vaccinated. It was a mild cold because the vaccine did exactly what it was designed to do.

    Also, my arm hurt from the shot, but I did not experience the other side effect you mentioned.

  23. You can still get covid while being vaccinated. You can still give covid while being vaccinated.

  24. R, if you couldn’t go out on a fire, because you were not vaccinated, then someone else who was vaccinated would go out in your place. You have not changed my mind. But you may change yours when you lose your job for not following policy.

  25. Phil, I’m glad you’re alive. I got COVID before the vaccine, but potential employers and some restaurants want to see the card, so I got the vaccine.

  26. I’m glad you recovered from COVID. I’m sorry you got it and I’m sorry you were treated so poorly by the FS.

  27. I’m not sure about DOI in general but NPS has mandated the jab for ALL employees. Don’t know the time line for implementations.

  28. Nobody will take their place. That’s the point of the discussion that you don’t want to accept. Or maybe you just think these hard working men and women are unskilled labor?

  29. NYC2AZ, there are plenty of men and women willing to take their (your) place. As I have stated before…They (You) are replaceable. I’m not some crazy person…I know this from experience. There are a lot of men and women who were fired and we are just waiting to be reinstated. You have the right to be vaccinated or not to be vaccinated, your employer has the right to require you to be vaccinated. Everyone keeps telling me to do my research and I have. Non-vaxers are not a protected people. (Test me on this one. Get fired and see what happens at your MSPB hearing. Let me know, cause it’s been 3 years and it will be another year before I go to hearing and that if there’s a Board). If your employer requires a vaccination, than you have to do it. The FS says you have to get vaccinated or tested. It’s up to you how you want to spend your time. But be warned, there are a lot of military folks leaving the military and we were required to be vaccinated. So, ask yourself. Would your burn boss rather have a tech that has not gotten vaccinated or a vet who has? As for you, you might want to do your research, because it seems to me that after every war the NPS and the FS gets an influx of military employees. So, my advise, get vaccinated or get replaced.

  30. In case you missed it from the other article about Covid outbreaks among firefighters, here is an excerpt.

    Vaccines are highly effective even if they’re not perfect

    The COVID-19 vaccines were developed to stop developing severe forms of the disease that can lead to hospitalization and death. In that aspect, they have been extremely successful even if the vaccines are not 100 percent effective.

    While it is true that some partially and fully vaccinated people have developed COVID-19, breakthrough infections should not be a concern for most of the population. Doctors, however, do still recommend people exercise caution in areas with low vaccination rates and high transmission.

    Vaccines also greatly reduce the likelihood of mild and symptomatic infections as well as prevent death and hospitalization.

    Kullar noted that the Delta variant is both more contagious and transmissible, and those who are harboring the Delta variant can carry as much as a 1,200 times higher viral load than the original strain.

    “Given all of this information, it is important for everyone not only to get fully vaccinated but also follow infection prevention measures, such as wearing a face mask in the public, physically distancing from others, and avoiding large crowds until we round the turn of this surge.”

  31. R, using your logic, the if you were told “sorry, we can save your house due to a shortage of resources due to a lot of them in quarantine bause they have covid, does that count too?

  32. SR, you make lots of assumptions but can’t seem to figure out what is even being discussed in the article. Mainly, what will the protocols be or will the various agencies simply deem firefighting “mission critical”.

    Further, there are numerous articles on this very website that challenge your assertion that there are plenty of men and women ready to take the place of what could be 30%+ of the current wildland firefighting force.

    You need to calm down and stop being so combative. All your negativity about firing people reads much more like bitterness and vengeance over your own situation as, by your own admission, you are waiting for a hearing to be reinstated.

  33. Bill, Thanks for putting out the good and factual information on COVID 19 and Delta variety. There is still much science does not know about it but vaccinations have resulted in a lot of lives saved and serious illness avoided. Areas with low vaccination rates are faced with a very real overload of non-vaccinated patients with life threatening COVID cases. Central Oregon, my new home is one of them.

  34. I won’t get a COVID vaccine because I’m so concerned about what’s in it, but I’ll eat 50-100 MREs per summer. Maybe I’ll chew some Copenhagen and down some energy drinks too.

  35. NYC2AZ, sorry you feel I’m being so combative, but I just found out another one of my friends just died. There’s no fire funeral for her. Please think twice about getting vaccinated.

  36. As I understand, there is now a mandate that all Federal employees be vaccinated or be subjected to weekly testing. I have read over the weekend that the FDA is expected to give full authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday. When this happens, it will give legal protection to employers to require that all employees are vaccinated or risk termination.

    I, personally, find this polarization regarding the vaccines quite baffling. We tried the carrot with various incentives for those vaccine hesitant. Now, they are going to use the stick. For anyone who has attended a public school in the last 50+ years, you received a series of vaccinations to protect you from smallpox, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, chicken pox, HPV…what did I leave out?

    Trust the science like your parents did!

  37. Get vaccinated for Pete’s sake. It’s a no brained. Don’t get COVID and go on a ventilator.

  38. This is a perfect example of living in fear. Comparing actual deadly illnesses to coronavirus and threatening people that don’t take this vaccine. Your anxiety must be off the charts.

  39. There’s a lot of people who had your exact opinion about COVID who are no longer livin life. But they sure owned the Libs on their way out the door.

  40. Mind blowing argument there. Still doesn’t explain why you should mandate a vaccine for something that people have an EXTREMELY high rate of surviving. Apparently the Nordic countries are doing something wrong right? And apparently wildfiretoday doesn’t like those statistics coming forward….

  41. There is a GREAT DEAL OF MISINFORMATION about this pandemic. We strive for the truth here at Wildfire Today. If you make a claim about statistics, give us the source of the information. There are plenty of social media sites that will welcome conspiracy theories and misleading rhetoric. We are not knowingly going to provide a platform for the distribution of bulls***.
    Any questions, check our standards for comments.

    P.S. Posting four comments in two hours using four different names could indicate you don’t have much confidence or pride in what you are posting. Trolls are not welcome. And yes, all comments are moderated, and three of yours did not pass muster and were deleted.

    This makes me wonder how many of the other negative comments about the vaccine might be an organized effort by Russia or Iran or China to sow discord, misinformation, and fear of the vaccine. It’s in their interests to see us fight and refuse the vaccine.. and get sick and die.

  42. Livin Life. It is not JUST about YOU, or if YOU survive. You live in a world with billions of other humans. A person I know had surgery scheduled a week or two ago to remove a life-threatening tumor. A few days before the surgery she got a call saying ALL surgeries were cancelled because the hospital is filled with COVID patients. On August 18 the CDC had this on their website. “During May 3–July 25, 2021, the overall age-adjusted vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization in New York was relatively stable (91.9%–95.3%).” By far, most of the COVID patients in hospitals are unvaccinated. People who are scared to get a shot or scared to feel under the weather for a day or two after it, are ruining life for the rest of us. If everyone was brave enough to get the shot hospitals would not be filling up, and my friend would have had her life-threatening tumor removed by now. ER patients would not be turned away after strokes, heart attacks, and vehicle accidents. Don’t be scared or selfish. Man or woman-up. Take the shot for the team. Be brave, not selfish.

  43. Bethany, you are correct. However, asking an anti-vaxxer to not be selfish is like asking a bagger to quietly close a blue room door at 2 am.

  44. So basically this is a biased forum that censors all discussion that challenges the Pro Vaccine narrative. No wonder these comments sounded so one sided. There is a sizable amount of individuals in the Fire World from all agencies that have no faith in our leaders, mainstream media, big pharma or scientific institutions that are afraid to speak up about the dangers/ineffectiveness of the Vaccine because they don’t want to lose their funding. There is misleading information from both sides of this debate and I don’t know what the truth is. But I do know who has lied in the past and will always lie and those are the people and organizations I just mentioned. It all boils down to TRUST and TRUTH. Sadly both of those are either hard to find or present themselves as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Or you can just ignore me, call me a Russian Bot Trumptard Supporter and Censor me. Up to you.

  45. Eliclair, you are a good example of the misinformation, saying this website “censors all discussion that challenges the Pro Vaccine narrative.” Some people will assume you are correct unless they take the time to disprove what you said by scrolling through the 53 comments attached to this article. Many of the comments are anti-vaccine. So either you intentionally lied or you need to improve your reading comprehension skills.

    Have a nice day.

  46. I fought fires last year like I have the last twenty five years without a vaccine and You now think I should be fired, be criticized and ridiculed for having an opinion different from yours, and be discriminated against.
    If the vaccine is as wonderful and effective as claimed in the previous posts, those of you who have been vaccinated should have nothing to fear from those of us who have not been vaccinated. If you still have that fear, then it’s only logical to deduce that you have no more faith in the vaccine than I do.
    Is in making my personal decision, I determined that the risks outweighed the possible benefits with many personal factors being considered. Those factors are no one else’s business and it is hypocritical of anyone to assume they can make that decision for me.
    I will accept and defend the choice each person makes for himself. What I refuse to tolerate is threats of termination, discrimination, and ridicule.

  47. SR: Putting your non-apology aside, that is truely tragic to have a friend pass away. For your own good, you should probably look into counciling for your loss instead of trying to invoke negative responses on a message board. It’s not a healthy outlet. I hope you find the help you need to heal.

  48. NYC2AZ, I’m truly sorry, you feel that way and thank you so much for your advice. The problem, I can’t afford therapy, because I don’t have a job (because I was wrongfully terminated) which is why I got vaccinated. You see a lot a jobs require you to be vaccinated. Which brings us back to the discussion…the FS requires you to vaccinated or be tested, but the military requires you to be fully vaccinated by September 1. It is my opinion, that in time, other agencies will follow suit. Anyway, you say that there will be a shortage, because people are not vaccinated and I agrue that there is already a shortage because of FS’ mismanagement and if they would reinstate all the men and women they fired, they would not have a shortage. I also argue that if people want to keep their jobs they will get vaccinated or they will have to find another job. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, because the FS requires vaccination or testing. As I’ve said before, I’m not for or against vaccination. I had to do it so I can get a job.

  49. Phil, why are you worried about me if you have the vaccine? Sounds like you are more worried about controlling other people’s lives. Take the vaccine if you want to, wear a mask if you’re sick, and most of all…stay home if you are sick.

  50. What you don’t get (from a previous post) is that most people with covid who are not vaccinated are taking up valuable space in the hospitals. Yes, you have the right to not get vaccinated, but it’s really selfish. No one’s going to take your guns away. FFs go get the shot if you want to go to fires.

  51. You think unrest isn’t coming? Imagine dumping half the country out of the workforce because of refusal to take this shot (you think they’ll stop at two or three shots?). What’s your attitude for those who can’t take the shots? “Too bad”?

  52. Public Health is already legalized. No Shirt, No Shoes is legalized.

    The idea that you have the freedom to pass a deadly disease on to old people, school children, and people whose medical conditions prevent them from getting the vaccinations is way beyond foolish. (I write “foolish” only to refrain from calling you stupid).

    I live in Florida, which is full of foolish people. Our hospitals are over flowing, school kids are dying, babies have ventilators down their throats, people sick with Covid are waiting outside hospital emergency rooms for hours in 100 degree heat until space opens for them. We have the highest incidence of disease and death since the start of the pandemic.

    Here, we are back to wearing masks everywhere because so many foolish people did not get vaccinated. I am not sick with Covid, just plain sick of stupid people.

    In the comments section on Washington Post article about a Texas GOP leader who railed against vaccines and masks and then died of covid: “The self-cleaning oven of Darwinian evolution is working just fine.”

    So buck up all you big brave firefighters. My vaccinations did not hurt at all, and I got a COOKIE! I am looking forward to my booster.

  53. Retribution and bitterness are common reactions when you feel that you have been wronged. Trying to make others that had no bearing over your situation share in your emotions by advocating they recieve the same treatment, is morally reprehensible.

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